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Thread: Best reads of 2017

  1. #1
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    Award Best reads of 2017

    We're almost done with this year so I suggest you start thinking what you loved or if you have it defined, please toss 'em already.
    I suggest a top 10 but everyone has a standard for their own readings, so go ahead and express yourself.
    Purpose in here is to open appettie for unknown books, new reading experiences from each other.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Curious what your list would be, Daniel.

    In no real order:

    The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe: Oe's brother-in-law (and best friend in his teenage years) Juzo Itami passed away in 1997. Although officially a suicide, it's been speculated that yakuza agents killed him. In this (presumably) autobiographical novel, Oe treats the death as a suicide, and the bulk of the book consists of an Oe stand in coming to terms with the death as he listens to tapes his friend had previously recorded for him to hear. A surprising page turner, one that I read when I was burnt out from reading too much and devoured on my commutes, sometimes staying outside my building for a few minutes just so I'd have some more time to read it.

    Rock Crystal by Adalbert Stifter: A short christmas novella. It has it's flaws, spending too much time on the set up or landscape, but Stifter, an amazing writer, makes it work. A great work by a neglected author.

    Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk: One of those novels that could've just never ended and I'd still be reading it happily today. Tokarczuk's village and history and myths are awe-inspiring, to the point, like the previous flaws, that any flaws are forgotten or seem insignificant at the end.

    There's Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night by Cao Naiqian: Would not have heard of him if it were not for the Nobel thread. One of the Chinese writers Malmquist said should receive the prize. A series of interconnected stories set during the Cultural Revolution in rural, poverty-stricken China--and when I say rural and poverty-stricken, I mean in many ways these people could easily be living two thousand years ago. Most of the stories by themselves are lacking, but together they form something bigger than the individual parts.

    Friends, You Drank Some Darkness: A collection of 3 Swedish poets, Harry Martinson, Gunnar Ekelöf and Tomas Tranströmer. Honestly, it ranks so highly for me only because of Harry Martinson's poems, which were eye-opening for me: deceptively simple yet more poeticism in a single poem than some poets can muster in an entire career.

    Birth of a Theorem by Cedric Villani: Nonfiction, about a Fields Medal winning mathematician creating his award winning theorem. Even if you don't know much about mathematics, especially at higher levels, it's still an intriguing read.

    Masters and Servants by Pierre Michon: A collection of novellas and stories that all center around historical painters. Probably one of the best places to start with Michon, and is tied with his Winter Mythologies and Abbes as my favorite of his.

    The Kiss of Lamourette by Robert Darnton: Read this at the beginning of the year, when I was strongly considering getting a PhD in book history. Many of the essays here are a bit dated, but still good reading, plus this also features Darnton's essay "What is the History of Books?", which single-handedly probably would've bought this volume on to this list. I found it online here: https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/h...pdf?sequence=2

    The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa: It's classic haikus by the masters. Of course it would be good, even in translation.

    The Printing Press in Early Modern Europe by Elizabeth Eisenstein: More book history. Um, anyone reading my list should probably think twice before checking this one out. I personally loved it, found it exhilarating, but others have said that the unabridged version is practically incomprehensible, and Eisenstein isn't about to win any awards for her writing abilities. Guess you really have to have an interest in the subject.

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    I made a top 5, otherwise I'd have to select 1 out of every 2 books I've read. With 19 books I've not read that much this year. My list is not very diverse, 4 written in English, one in Dutch. I didn't get to reading much outside of the USA and Europe this year. I read more female authors than male, which is also reflected in my top 5.

    1. Hanya Yanagihara - A little life
    An amazing book. Never thought that a 600+ pages book could keep my attention right to the end. It is fascinating all the way through, althouh it has its flaws as Isa pointed out somewhere on the forum. It could serve as a text book for authors who want to learn how to work out a character really well. The novel starts out with introducing the four protaganists (although two of them fade somewhat to the background later on). She takes lots and lots of pages per person to describe them, but it never put me off. It is quite dramatic how the story unfolds, but Jude the main character kept coming back into mind even weeks after I finished the book.
    2. Tommy Wieringa - Santa Rita
    Published in October this year and maybe the best Wieringa up till now. Great novel by imo my country's best novelist. As far as I know it is not out in translation yet, but that's being worked on.
    3. Virginia Woolfe - To the lighthouse
    This year I started to fill up some of the gaps on my list of classics that I want to read. I had to read and digest it slowly, but it was rewarding. The scene where Lily Briscoe is unable to respond to Mr. Ramsay's request for sympathy, is just wonderful: 'What beautiful boots!', she exclaimed. I read it and reread that scene and will continue to reread it.
    4. Kazuo Ishiguro - The buried giant
    Beautiful in style and language and meaningful in its message. Just like the other Ishiguros I've read.
    5. Zadie Smith - Swing time
    As I wrote in a review at the beginning of this year: I enjoyed it because it showed me something of a world I had no idea about.
    Last edited by peter_d; 19-Dec-2017 at 13:05. Reason: spelling errors

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Call Me By Your Name was definetely my best read of the year. Out of the 14 books I read, it's the only one that still "stays with me". Probably because I'm the same age as the main character and struggling with the same stuff. Also, it was the first book that had a physical impact on me. I felt bad for three days after finishing it.

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Os Cus de Judas (the land at the end of the world) - Antonio Lobo Antunes - I'm still finishing this one but I know it's great.

    Autumn - Ali Smith - she presents here an exquisite fiction construction.

    Roadside Picnic - Boris and Arkady Strugatsky - spellbinding read

    A clockwork orange - Anthony Burgess - needles to say anything about this one

    The fox was ever the hunter - Herta Müller - she does things here I never thought could be done with the conduction of a narrative, the way she goes on about it merely through metaphors is extremely inspiring.

    War's Unwomanly Face - Svetlana Aleksiévitch - most moving book I've read this year.

    O tribunal da quinta-feira - Michel Laub - still not translated into English, a great examination of our contemporary Internet culture.

    The three stigmata of Palmer Eldritch - PK Dick - a fun and rather profound read talking about the origins and progression of evil in us. Reminded me a lot of the films Inception, Jacob's Ladder, Altered States...

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by redheadshadz View Post
    Primeval and Other Times by Olga Tokarczuk: One of those novels that could've just never ended and I'd still be reading it happily today. Tokarczuk's village and history and myths are awe-inspiring, to the point, like the previous flaws, that any flaws are forgotten or seem insignificant at the end.
    Mouthwatering list Red, thanks for sharing. Primeval was amazing, I loved this novel. Myth and history blending together into a perfect book. Can't believe I read it so many years ago and that I haven't read anything else by Tokarczuk after I was so mesmerized by this book.

    I read Changeling a few years ago and by some reasons it didn't hit me as hard as some other Oé novels, although it was a good book just as everything else this man has written.

    Quote Originally Posted by peter_d View Post
    2. Tommy Wieringa - Santa Rita
    Published in October this year and maybe the best Wieringa up till now. Great novel by imo my country's best novelist. As far as I know it is not out in translation yet, but that's being worked on.
    This man visited my city's bookfair within the European Writers Festival program. If I'd knew you think so highly of him I for sure would have gone to his presentation!

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by peter_d View Post
    Virginia Woolfe - To the lighthouse
    I had to read and digest it slowly, but it was rewarding.
    It's Woolf, sans e, and yes, To the Lighthouse is one of the greatest novels ever written. Margaret Drabble called it less a novel and more of an elegy; in her opinion the book's style is pure poetry.

    One of my favorite books, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!!

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by lucasdiniz View Post
    Call Me By Your Name was definetely my best read of the year. Out of the 14 books I read, it's the only one that still "stays with me". Probably because I'm the same age as the main character and struggling with the same stuff. Also, it was the first book that had a physical impact on me. I felt bad for three days after finishing it.
    This was one of my favorites from a couple of years ago. I'm looking forward to seeing the film.

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    my picks..

    Fiction

    Laszlo Krasznahorkai - War & War
    Uwe Johnson - Speculations About Jakob
    Roberto Arlt - The Seven Madmen
    S L Bhyrappa - Parva
    Horacio Castellanos Moya - Senselessness
    Zulmira Ribeiro Tavares - Family Heirlooms
    Otar Chiladze - Avelum
    Sadegh Hidayat - The Blind Owl

    Non Fiction

    David Shulmann - Tamil: A Biography
    Eduardo Galeano - Open Veins of Latin America
    Last edited by kpjayan; 21-Dec-2017 at 05:53.
    Jayan



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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by Liam View Post
    It's Woolf, sans e
    I quote Leonard Cohen here who wanted to say sorry to Janis Joplin long after she died: "If there is some way of apologising to the ghost, I want to apologise now." The thing is, some people add an h to my last name. So I know how it feels and I hate it!

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    This man visited my city's bookfair within the European Writers Festival program. If I'd knew you think so highly of him I for sure would have gone to his presentation!
    If you get that chance again, don't miss it!

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel del Real View Post
    Mouthwatering list Red, thanks for sharing. Primeval was amazing, I loved this novel. Myth and history blending together into a perfect book. Can't believe I read it so many years ago and that I haven't read anything else by Tokarczuk after I was so mesmerized by this book.

    I read Changeling a few years ago and by some reasons it didn't hit me as hard as some other Oé novels, although it was a good book just as everything else this man has written.
    Too bad my grammar skills weren't amazing...really should start rereading my posts before I click ok. Which other Tokarczuk novels would you recommend?

    And I actually agree with you on The Changeling. Not as impactful as his other books (but still much more impactful than many books out there). But something clicked for me with it, I think because I have a brother who's incredibly into film, and the surprisingly readability of the novel made it unforgettable for me. I always enjoy Oe novels, but they're dense, sometimes difficult work. With this one I was counting down the minutes to my lunch break so I could read some more of it.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Decent lists in this thread, some intriguing recommendations. As for me, I've only read a few books this year due to time constraints. I won't go into the classics everyone has heard of already, but my two main takeaways were definitely Traumnovelle by Arthur Schnitzler and Journey By Moonlight by Anton Szerb, both of which have made it into my own personal canon of literary development and are no doubt towering novels of the twentieth century. Worth a cursory google at least.

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by redheadshadz View Post
    Too bad my grammar skills weren't amazing...really should start rereading my posts before I click ok. Which other Tokarczuk novels would you recommend?

    And I actually agree with you on The Changeling. Not as impactful as his other books (but still much more impactful than many books out there). But something clicked for me with it, I think because I have a brother who's incredibly into film, and the surprisingly readability of the novel made it unforgettable for me. I always enjoy Oe novels, but they're dense, sometimes difficult work. With this one I was counting down the minutes to my lunch break so I could read some more of it.
    I read this and its sequel Death By Water as well this year. 3/5 for both. I’m just not into Oe’s works that are heavily auto fiction (like A Quiet Life). The books seemed unfocused at times and eventually got monotonous and irritating for me.

    The section about going to the complex in the mountains when they were teenagers was good but the rest of it just did nothing for me.

    On its own it would have been a 4/5 for me possibly, but after reading Death By Water I dropped the score to 3/5. It continues some of the remaining bits from The Changeling but halfway through it just became far too focused on one aspect. I also hated the ending which tied into the mountain complex part of The Changeling.

    As others have stated elsewhere. It still baffles me why certain Oe novels (like the three I mentioned) were translated into English as opposed to other, more important works of his.

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Eleven books, just like last year. Will complete the list little by litte as I want to add a brief description (just like Red did) which is always helpful to open appettite.

    Ana Blandiana, My Land A4: plasticity and lyricsm built into a verse. Verses together to create a vivid description of the Romanian panorama in the time of the dictatorship. Still, there's a lot of light melting the snow, angels going down to dirty their wings and the longing for love for a land that contains the loved ones and the special places of the childhood. All of this under a constant questioning of the author to God, for all its responsibility and non caring of their hopeless and freedom starving creatures.

    Adam Zagajewsky, Land of Fire/Desire: these two collections of poems were written in the 1990's and depict the vision of the poet after the fall of communism and its directs effects in Poland. It englobes the vision of a punished land, a ground lacerated by the hate of Nazism and Communism and how survival was possible thanks to the flame still alive at the hearts of their community, shedding light tho the villages, the churches and the snowy fields. Brilliant cosmogony of the oppresed lands.

    Julio Ramón Ribeyro, The Word of the Mute (Complete short stories): I dare to say this was the book of the year. In this collection we have over a thousand pages of short stories from one of the true masters of this genre in the whole XX century. A Tales with and extraordinary range that goes from describing the author's very well known periphery of the city of Lima, the suburbs and slums of the Capital in all its horror; stories about his experience full of sorrow and poverty in different countries in Europe, to his addiction to cigarrette and how it guided him slowly to his own death. An author overlooked by the Boom, but probably the best one for "el cuento".

    José Eduardo Agualusa, Tropical Baroque: probably the most solid and round roman I read the whole year. With extraordinary skills, Agualusa is able to gather the best of the social and magic realism, two indissoluble categories necesary to properly describe the reality of Luanda. The tyranny of post-colonialism goes head to head with the traditions and beliefs of the ancestral tribes, narrated by a writer and his wife, a worldwide famous singer of fados, who is also daughter of a high political and military authority. The phantasmagoria of a building called the anthill is the phenomenal setting for a landscape that cannot be described but in the terms of the most complex baroque panorama.

    Samantha Schwebin, Fever Dream: A nouvelle that feels like an hallucination. With a more accurate original title (Distance to rescue) it hits the string of every muscle of the reader for auto-protection, to tell if all that happens is pure fantasy, delusion by poisoning or it's just how fantastic real life can be. We all need to feel safe, but a strange feeling of discomfort is present in every sentence written down by Schweblin, not only in this book, but in all of her short stories; and it grows, and it becomes anxiety, fear, real danger.

    Tomás González, In The Beggining was the Sea: on the contrary to many other novels located in a tropical scenery, many of them describing paradise-like settings, everything happening in this sea story is sordid and unpleasant. What is planned to be an experience full of life and hedonism by the main couple, turns little by little into a nightmare, the fall of an uthopian project that we all know will miserably fail since the first page, as the author is very enmphatic in telling so. If the tropical gothic exists, it is present in La Mansión de Araucaíma by Álvaro Mutis and in Primero estaba el Mar by Tomás González.

    William Ospina, Cinammon's Country: After Cusco was sacked and looted by the Spaniard conquerors, the younger of the Pizarro's, Gonzalo, is willing to become a forceful figure and have his part of the treasure he didn't get for arriving late. He hears news about a mythical land in the north with forrests full of cinammon trees. Propelled by similar purposes than Columbus' initial trip to India, a legion of men start a travesy through the river that will take them to a destiny that could be a mirage for the Spaniards, a legend in folklore of the indigenous or an unknown reality to everyone.

    Héctor Abad Faciolince, The Oblivion We Shall Be: last of the Colombian triad, and titled after a verse of Borges, Abad Faciolince brings and autobiographical tale of his family, focusing on the figure of his father. Héctor Abad, a doctor, teacher, advocate for human rights and father of the author, was murdered by the paramilitares in the late 80's, the pinnacle of the savagery in Medellín. The novel draws a very detailed profile of the father, not only as a public figure but a man of family and good feelings for his fellow men. It is a family tale as well as a pointy diary of the war the country lived during that dark period of time.

    Joca Reiners Terron, The Extraordinary Sorrow of the Snow Leopard: This is a very well constructed tale molded into a thriller or a reverse detective novel. There is a crime, but we're not told what it is until late in the novel. At first we're introduced to the characters, first the narrator, a typist who works for a police department who makes a recount of his life with his elder father and his daily life at the PD. Here he starts tellings us the diferent characters of the crime to be told, all of them under a halo of mistery and gloom: a taxi driver owner of three rotweillers, a nurse who is in charge of a strange creature, the blending of cultures (jewish, coreans, bolivians) living in the neighborhood of Bom Retiro in Sao Paulo, all of it creates a very rich scenery of a captivating plot. A book hard to put down.

    Mircea Cărtărescu, The Chestnut-colored Eye of our Love: A collection of essays and chronicles written during the 90's in which Cartarescu takes through different realities of Romania: An island in the middle of the Danube sunken to create an energy plant, a visit to Constantsa the land of exile of Ovidius, Cartarescu's addiction for a version of soluble coffee, etc. A great introduction to tackle Solenoid next year.

    Ivo Andric, A Bridge on the Drina: There's nothing else I can add to what has been said about this novel. A tremendous tale of a city, a saga of generations embracing christians, muslims and jewish. A whole vision of a turmoil land for centuries, accompanied by the single stories of multiple characters makes this novel a mosaic of what built the Balkans.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Lincoln in the Bardo - George Saunders
    Rachel Kushner - The Flamethrowers
    Darconvilles Cat - Alexander Theroux
    Happy- Nicola Barker

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by Stevie B View Post
    This was one of my favorites from a couple of years ago. I'm looking forward to seeing the film.
    Really? Glad to hear that! This book left a huge impact on me. I actually can't describe it into words. I'm downloading the movie right now, it just got leaked online.

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by lucasdiniz View Post
    I'm downloading the movie right now, it just got leaked online.
    Um, you probably shouldn't admit to this on a public forum,

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Quote Originally Posted by lucasdiniz View Post
    Really? Glad to hear that! This book left a huge impact on me. I actually can't describe it into words.
    I liked it so much that I traded in my paperback for a hardcover copy. Glad I did that a couple of years ago because first editions of this novel are now ridiculously expensive. The novel reads more like a memoir since the relationships always seem genuine and emotions are so raw at times. The story really pulled me in because I felt I was following the lives of real people rather than fictitious characters.

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    Default Re: Best reads of 2017

    Boussole by Mathias Énard was the one that stood out. Not that I read all that much this year apart from war nerdery.

    2016 had no real highlights - again, I read a lot of war nerdery and not much else.

    2015 by far Le Rivage des Syrtes by Julian Gracq.
    Last edited by Corswandt; 22-Dec-2017 at 14:09.

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